Many condolences

by Michael
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OLTL Two Scoops: Many condolences
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The week of March 8, 2010
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Viki's dismissal of Charlie and their marriage over his need for revenge probably has less to do with him and much more to do with her.

You guys have no idea how frightened I was when Kim's boots turned up missing shortly after Stacy's Wile E. Coyote plunge into the ice on Llantano Mountain. I fully expected Ms. Monotone Death 2009 to show up in three to six months to claim her baby, and continue driving me up the wall with Stacy's uniquely sociopathic Valley Girl vocal inflection. It's not that Crystal Hunt is actually bad in the role; it's often that she's too good to even begin to relate to as human. I envision her doing some sort of female version of Christian Bale's spine-chilling voice-over as the titular well-dressed madman in American Psycho, perhaps prattling on about the aesthetic merits of the Pussycat Dolls' greatest hits while simultaneously, I don't know, eating a baby, possibly her own. But when she klomped back into Rex's loft this week on OLTL, I breathed a sigh of relief, because any fool knew that the surprise return of La Morasco meant she was just Kim's special ghost friend. The question, of course, is, are those boots really missing up in the mountains? And if Stacy's ghost didn't take them, who did? Or are we to believe the ghost really is on a spectral thieving spree, dripping ectoplasm in her wake? This has been another episode of Clumsy Metaphysical Questions with Ron Carlivati. And now, on to your, my, and our week in Two Scoops.

Since we're already on the topic of The Last Of Stacy (not to be confused with The Last Of Sheila, the murder mystery and gay classic starring James Mason and the ubiquitous Dyan Cannon) let's continue in that vein and cover all the players on that particular Boggle board, shall we? This week brought little movement for our dubious heroes, Gigi, Rex, and Schuyler, except for an unlikely forgiveness interlude with Rex and Adriana and the triumphant return of Gigi's Tweety Bird coiffure after she finally took a shower. For a while after the snowstorm, I thought that look was gone for good, but no -- somewhere out there in the Great Beyond with Stacy, the ghost of Jay Sebring, hair maven to the stars, is weeping. The one silver lining in this plodding storyline is the possibilities it opens up for people other than Rex and Gigi; Elijah and Téa are back at each other's throats in the legal game, the only story arena currently working for Téa's character, while Schuyler and Rachel have an interesting conspiracy going on with her acting as his confidant regarding his oxytocin shenanigans, pulling her away from, and into conflict with, Greg the Furniture-Killer. Unfortunately, we already know some of this will come to naught, but I'll reserve my isolated comments on Llanview's two exiting leading ladies until the end of the column.

The other two interesting avenues of this story also have little to do with Rex or Gigi: There's Clint and Kim's impending nups, and Kyle and Fish's struggle with the truth about little Sierra Rose's paternity. Oliver keeps denying that his reticence over confronting the secret has anything to do with his own residual internalized homophobia, but I doubt that; however, it's equally as possible that Oliver is still getting used to being an out gay man and is nowhere near prepared to be both in a committed relationship and raising a small child. Both reactions are valid for the character and warrant exploration, and man, doesn't Kyle make a great pit bull as the aggressor in this equation? So many straight actors who have played gay seem to approach it with a degree of hesitance and confusion, as if they're afraid of offending someone while also emasculating themselves in the eyes of future employers, but Brett Claywell has no fear; he goes for the throat with Amanda Setton and others in scene after scene, treating her not as a female who he has to pretend to not see as a sexual being, something I think many straight-as-gay performers on soaps have trouble with, but simply as a rival and enemy; there's something very real about their ferocious interplay, which most other actors would gloss over to make Kyle's character look more benign. As it stands, Claywell takes on each scene with great gusto and boffo gay pride as Kyle remains Oliver's sole advocate, with no apologies and no mercy.

As for Clint and Kim, what can I say, I'm thrilled that they're making it official. They remain the best new couple in a while, and it's heartbreaking to think of this double act breaking up so soon. I love that Clint remains tough and smart throughout, hitting Kim with a pre-nup with the quickness, just as she immediately went for the fur coat and diamonds. Equals, baby! I love it. More on Amanda Setton at the end of the column.

This week also brought us another chapter in the already-tiresome Jessica Eugenia (seriously, that's her middle name as of 2004) Got Married saga, as Jessica quickly shifted into "Sami Brady" gear as Cristian's insane stalker. Wonderful. Listen, I have nothing but praise for Bree Williamson's portrayal of Erin Torpey; I think she's doing a better job with this than she often did in parts of the DID story. The resemblance, the similarities in inflection, and affect are in many ways uncanny, and Williamson should be commended. The problem is this story is just lame. Already, Jessica is traipsing around town by herself, smashing Cris and Layla's pictures and throwing herself at Cris over and over. Now she's attending Llanview High. Really, Ron? This might have been almost amusing if Viki hadn't already hypothesized (correctly, in my opinion) that Jessica's mental block has less to do with the electroshock and more to do with the psychological trauma wrought by Mitch, with Jessica's psyche retreating to a time in her life when she was relatively unspoiled.

The bigger problem is that watching Jessica go crazy no longer has even the meager novelty it once did. When Viki said this week that even integrated and without her memory loss, Jessica's grasp of sanity was "tenuous at best," it was a shockingly candid moment for the character and the writing that I was surprised the show let through taping. Because let's be honest, I still like Jessica but there is a very simple, one-line description of her story for the better part of the past decade: Cuckoopants. As I've said before, there is no core character there anymore, just more disorders and more trauma. All she is is what's happened to her, and that was something Torpey's Jessica never even resembled. This isn't Bree's fault, this is the writing, and it's gotten really old. I don't need another six weeks of Jessica acting wacky and then throwing childish fits trying to get Cristian to "deflower" her all over again and thereby fulfill some measure of freaky karmic justice against Will Rappaport (I hate you, Will) to know this is a dead end and once again, demeaning Jessica as a character. Where is Jessica's strength, her potential for the future as a strong heroine? She never makes things happen, things only happen to her and while it might look like Jessica is taking initiative here, really, all she's doing is suffering from another disease. It's tired, despite the actors giving their all, especially Williamson and the great Mark Lawson. If they really break up Brody and Jess and Cris and Layla for this nonsense, there aren't enough cries of "serenity now!" to calm me down.

This story doesn't work for me, but there are a couple redeeming comic moments thus far, aside from Bree's ongoing performance: One was when she blithely asked Kevin who Zane's father was and everybody in the room got a look on their face like they'd eaten a hunk of Limburger cheese, and the other when she gushed to Natalie about Cristian, while Nat was clearly desperate not to mention her marriage to Mr. Vega, or Jessica's own romance with big bro Antonio, which is still gross to me, by the way -- Antonio met Jessica at like age 12! I wonder if this stuff will ever come up.

It wasn't all bad, though; with Melinda's death and Jessica out of the hospital, we got the triumphant return of the great Barbara Garrick as Allison Perkins! Much like rapper T.I., Garrick can do just about anything and remain sexy while doing so. I'd watch her anywhere, any time, and I'm glad she's back to finish telling Allison and Mitch's story. Bring it on.

There were a number of broken hearts in Llanview this week, one of the biggest being poor Charlie's. Not gonna lie, when Charlie started pouring his heart out to Viki, I got scared because you could see Erika Slezak doing that quaking skull thing she does -- that right there is what I call "the Tommy Twitch," copyright 1995. Whenever Viki starts shaking in place like that, usually it means lock your doors, bolt your windows, and hide your small animals, because they're about to break out the creepy drums and then one of the alters is going to pop out to curb-stomp some unsuspecting trick and lock 'em in the catacombs. Fortunately no drums this time, but man, Viki looked pissed.

I could understand her anger with Charlie's deception and foolish actions, but what I can't understand is Viki dismissing that and then claiming to draw the line at attempted murder on general principle. All I could do was roll my eyes at her getting on her high horse over Charlie's thirst for vengeance. More than anyone else, she understands desperate times and desperate measures, and she knows Mitch Laurence. At one point, we were to believe Viki killed her own father, who'd raped her for years, and certainly Niki did kill Johnny Dee in order to save Tina. Does Viki count herself exempt from her moral code because she was mentally ill, and Charlie was merely crippled by grief over Jared? I don't believe she does, because I love Viki and I don't think she's that big of a hypocrite, even though she certainly sounded like one this week. Lest we forget, Ben Davidson was a mob doctor who indulged in a great deal of gunplay, and also spent months out for Asa's blood; this did not stop Viki from marrying him at a fairy tale wedding, after which, incidentally, Ben ditched her at the reception to go try to kill more people.

In the end, I think Viki's dismissal of Charlie and their marriage over his need for revenge has less to do with him and much more to do with her. This week was not the first time in recent days in which Viki has pontificated about the need for restraint when dealing with Mitch, and how no one should even dare think of stooping to his level and killing him the way he needs to be killed. I think Viki still wants to kill Mitch, wants very much to do it herself, and is wrestling with that "wrong" desire and taking her angst out on everyone else. And if this show wanted to write a proper end to this story, I think they should let Viki do it. If there's anyone that can pull the trigger on Mitch once and for all, it's Viki; it would also allow her perspective to understand Charlie, who I pray she forgives. But while I believe Ron Carlivati usually has Viki's best interests at heart (as opposed to, let's say, Todd's or Jessica's), I have little confidence in ABC Daytime allowing Viki this much influence on a major story.

Charlie aside, the biggest broken heart in town this week no doubt belongs to recent returnee Kelly Cramer, once Buchanan but apparently no longer. On one hand, you can argue that the death of an 'invisible Cramer' like Melinda was pointless and lacking in drama, but on the other it does allow a springboard for Kelly's future story, and it spared us the loss of the ethereal Laura Bonarrigo as Cassie, who I long suspected would be the one to bite the bullet. Don't all the Cramer women look amazing, by the way? I think this story would have had more weight if they'd bothered to show Melinda in recent months (the character, last played by Nicole Orth-Pallavicini, was most recently seen cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs in 2004), and reaffirm her connection to the family. Melinda was once, way back in the '70s, Dorian's sole focus and driving motivation as a character, the sheltered young orphan who Dorian had become both big sister and mother to after their parents' deaths, keeping her locked away and overprotected when they first moved to Llanview, micromanaging her life. Sound familiar? Before all Dorian's other girls and all her other familial obsessions -- Cassie, Addie, Blair, Kelly, Adriana, Langston -- there was Melinda, something often forgotten by fans and writers alike given the character's rare appearances over the years. Many fans will have no connection to the photos briefly glimpsed in Kelly's scrapbook, which is why it now falls onto Tognoni and Strasser to hammer home Melinda's importance to their family in the coming weeks, but more attention could have been paid.

With Kelly back, so too comes her laundry list of idiosyncracies and flaws, most notably her enduring bitchy relationship with Cousin Blair. Gina Tognoni and Kassie DePaiva still play wonderfully opposite each other, but I fail to understand why Kelly keeps giving Blair attitude despite being the one who killed her baby. I think it's because the women are still such opposites -- Blair is almost dogmatically loyal to the Cramer family, while Kelly often fled the family tree for the less dysfunctional creature comforts of the Buchanan manse, likely due to Kelly's own natural and understandable fear of Melinda and her mental illness. I also became a huge fan of Kevin and Kelly with Dan Gauthier and Heather Tom in the roles, because for once the show seemed willing to portray both of the characters honestly, as deeply flawed, often hypocritical people who couldn't help but tear each other apart and do terrible things while considering themselves to be "the heroes." Gauthier and Tom played the characters as giant egos waiting to be punctured, and when they finally were, you grew to feel for them, and wanted them to put themselves back together and find a kind of frazzled peace in each other's arms. It's the kind of love that once made GH's Alan Quartermaine try to drop a house on his wife, Monica. Gina Tognoni's already displayed a similar easy chemistry with Dan Gauthier; the only problem is that ABC is apparently continuing to ignore fan pleas for Kevin to return long-term, and once again, Kelly has rejected Kevin and shot herself in the foot.

The irony was not lost on me that Kevin proposed to Kelly in St. James Church, the same house of worship where Kelly once bedded Kevin's late son, Duke, a boy Kelly helped raise, though we weren't supposed to remember that when this repugnant story first played out in 2006. Since then, Kelly's character has been irrevocably tarnished in many fans' eyes, resulting in her acquiring a variety of hilarious and colorful nicknames, none of which I can reprint in this august family column. Though I was crushed by Kevin's rejection, I appreciated what the show did with Kelly and Kevin's scenes; Tognoni was able to pick up the same shaken, battered vulnerability she'd lost in her later years at OLTL, then regained as GL's Dinah Marler, and reapplied it to Kelly without missing a beat. She played the same broken self-loathing that Tom's Kelly had over her forbidden liaison with Duke, but managed to elevate it to the level of grand internal tragedy -- you can believe that that single unspeakable incident is now Kelly's core touchstone as a character, something shameful, which neither she nor Kevin can yet quite forgive, and which has blocked her from ever moving on with her life. If that's what that scene was meant to convey, mission accomplished, and it would certainly be an interesting and welcome shading to Kelly's character, to whom her misdeeds rarely seemed to stick in the past. Maybe that sense of shame is why Kelly seems potentially willing to debase herself with the likes of Todd Manning.

Yes, that's right; according to the incredibly subtle camerawork, Dorian's "bright future" for Kelly sans Melinda is likely to lead Kelly right back to the owner of her sodden hankie: The one, the only, the unconvicted "T.M." Needless to say I am not yet delighted by this turn of events. For one thing, I don't believe that Todd can't differentiate between Cassie and Kelly or Addie and Melinda, and I failed to see the point of that dialogue other than to keep pissing off viewers who were already disgusted with the character; for another, Kelly has always despised Todd, even when she took him into her unstable confidence as a co-conspirator in The Great Statewide Baby Switch Of 2004. Back then, as now, the show teased the possibility of a Todd/Kelly hookup, and I could almost buy it at the time because Our Kelly had gone totally animal crackers. The relatively sane Kelly of 2009, however? Not a chance. Assuming they go through with such a dalliance this time, and I'm not convinced they will, it won't make any difference which woman they throw at Todd to keep him busy; nothing's going to work until they fix the character. All the actors involved deserve better, but I've been saying that forever when it comes to Todd.

Todd was making friends all over Llanview this week; he even threw a million dollars at Llanview High to get Danielle off a charge of cheating and theft. Unfortunately, it was only in the service of his own self-pity, and I don't feel a thing for him. I was, however, glad Danielle stopped Matthew from taking the hit for her, and I loved both Téa and Nora going all defense attorney on their kids' behalf. That teen romance continues apace, and nicely for me.

Yet as the song says, the kids aren't alright -- just look at poor Langston. She's got a fever, and apparently the only cure is more statutory rapist. Wait, she's eighteen, right? Well, Ford's still really creepy. The guy keeps crowing to Cristian and Layla about his young conquests and I wonder why they haven't kicked him out yet. Blair almost had him dead to rights this week with her faux-booty call, but the scrumptious Elijah interrupted, leaving Ford to continue to pull his oh-so-seductive wool over young Ms. Wilde's eyes. I think Brittany Underwood's playing the hell out of this story, and has a great confidant in Blair; I also think Lang's examination of the loss of her parents and her "safer" life with Markko rings true. And the fact is, young people make foolish choices like this based on hormones. Happens every day. The problem is that Ford just isn't appealing a villain enough on his own to want me to watch more and more of Lang acting a fool for him. I don't know what the solution is for this story but I fear it won't lead to more for Underwood or Jason Tam, both of whom are talented enough to warrant much more three-dimensional material.

Speaking of creeps, now is the ideal time to discuss John McBain's ever-predictable love life. Despite Marty's valiant attempts to get to the truth and confront Natalie, who is now perfecting her "oh crap" look in episode after episode, nobody was really willing to clear the air this week in a series of mind-numbing scenes, each more thrilling than the last. Already John's back to his tried-and-true routine of "sleep with one woman while endlessly fantasizing about another," refusing to address the problem yet lying to Marty and scurrying off to Llanfair for more passive-aggressive doubletalk doubtlessly designed to confuse Natalie and leave him, once again, in the catbird seat. Wake me when it's over; if necessary, simply do not resuscitate. And now Marty's probably pregnant. Great. Who wants to guess John's facial expression at the news?

So that's that for the week that was, but we have one more piece of business, and that's the impending departures of both Amanda Setton (Kim Andrews) and Daphnee Duplaix (Rachel Gannon). Both these stories broke on the site just after my last column went to print, and though I'm sure we'll discuss it more in the days to come, I feel inclined to address it now. As we know, Setton is leaving by her own choice in order to audition during Hollywood pilot season, and while I'll dearly miss her as one of OLTL's newest breaking stars, I hope the show has a backup plan for Clint and Kim's future together, which could go anywhere for years to come, either with Setton or with another actress. Daphnee Duplaix is another story; evidently, the actress was dismissed by the show. The logic of this decision not only escapes me, it also bewilders and angers me.

I've waxed pretentious in the past about the unique range of African-American characters OLTL now offers, its multi-dimensional black canvas, where not every character knows each other or remains "ghetto-ized" in uniform story roles and positions on the show, so I'm not going to regurgitate everything I've said before about how sadly groundbreaking it is for OLTL to offer us two totally different women like Rachel and Layla on the same show, yet on opposite poles of Llanview. The point is Duplaix has been a success; she is popular with fans, and has kept up the intelligence, integrity, and quiet heroism of Rachel's enduring character first established by Ellen Bethea in the early '90s. She's a black Jewish recovering drug addict and social worker -- where else on daytime are you going to get that? What other show than OLTL would dare, has always tried to dare? Her ongoing conflict between Greg and Schuyler is one of the most interesting new parts of the show for me, and clearly the show is poised to pair Rachel with young Dr. Joplin. Why then is Ms. Duplaix being dismissed? Who at OLTL or ABC Daytime made the same uncreative and ignorant decision that so many other soaps have made in the last decade, that one or two black performers on contract is more than enough to demonstrate a token commitment to diversity? Worse, could someone in the executive suite have decided that a minority character such as Rachel was not "important" enough to be paired with a former GH star like Scott Clifton, similar to how Angie Hubbard's romance with Peter Bergman's Cliff was snuffed out on AMC in the late '80s?

I don't need Ford to get a contract while Rachel goes wanting. Amanda Setton may be leaving Llanview of her own accord, but the loss of two women like Kim and Rachel, very different but neither following a conventional soap image of blonde, Caucasian beauty, is, in my opinion, a blow to our show, which is built on diversity and shattering social barriers. In 1968, Ellen Holly's Carla romanced both black Price Trainor and white Jim Craig; in 2009, Rachel, a veteran of nearly twenty years, is sacked just as a budding interracial romance begins to gain traction. What's wrong with this picture, ABC Daytime? To paraphrase Jerry verDorn, I like evolution, not devolution in my soaps, and let's not forget that both Susan Lucci and Robin Strasser were once considered "too ethnic" to star on daytime. Agnes Nixon proved the bigots wrong; with the loss of Daphnee Duplaix, a kind of soft, placid bigotry takes hold again, in which "one is enough" and no other images or delineation are needed for viewers of color. But we're better than that, and OLTL is better than that. Ms. Duplaix and Ms. Setton will be missed and I hope I'll see them both back in Llanview someday soon. See you in two weeks.


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Two Scoops is an opinion column. The views expressed are not designed to be indicative of the opinions of Soap Central or its advertisers. The Two Scoops section allows our Scoop staff to discuss what might happen and what has happened, and to share their opinions on all of it. They stand by their opinions and do not expect others to share the same point of view.

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